05/17/2003 9:30p ET
Dw Dunphy - Reviewer
It's hard to predict the direction Devin Townsend is going to take from one project to the next. Fans of his psycho-aggressive metal band Strapping Young Lad probably weren’t prepared for the tuneful first solo “Ocean Machine” or his fourth foray, the often-brilliant prog-metal “Terria”. In between, the experimental “Infinity” and near industrial “Physicist” seemed like strange and contradictory tangents; great in their ways but hardly the natural next step.
So it’s odd that his latest solo effort is called “Accelerated Evolution” since it perfectly links the adrenaline of “Ocean Machine” with the beauty of “Terria”. Let it not be said that this is a regressive step though. In the often juvenile and trend-conscious metal genre, you probably won’t find a release as mature, polished and forward thinking as “A.E.” this year, bar none.
“Depth Charge” starts the disc with a hard, solid kick, with Townsend and Brian Waddell’s driving guitars, Dave Young’s synth pads and the rhythm section of Mike Young (bass) and Ryan van Poederooyen (drums). It introduces the vocabulary of CD but more importantly, gives the listener an easy way into a difficult group of songs. Will the average metal fan appreciate the lyrics of “Random Analysis”, a look at sexual politics that avoids being smarmy or lurid? The track “Suicide”, at first sounding a little like Tool, pulls up and claims an identity of its own, never pandering to the clichés a song called “Suicide” might invite.
The most important thing to note is the fluidity of Townsend’s voice, as malleable as the liquid mercury designs that adorn the CD. Long known for his pitch-perfect shriek, he also is capable of emotional tenderness, anxiety and beautifully rendered harmonies, all of which get a workout on this release, sometimes within the same song. In the pop-laced “Traveller” and the bluesy “Away” he proves once again why he is so envied among his peers. He whispers, he screams, he provides a chorus that demands you sing along.
Here is the catch with “A.E.”. Like its predecessor, it can be listened to in bits and pieces but is best enjoyed as a whole. The sequencing of tracks allows the listener the added attraction of an emotional journey if allowed if you’re the type who listens to CDs in ‘random order’ mode, you won’t be disappointed either. Once you’ve gotten to the exuberant last track, “Slow Me Down”, you’ll feel like you’ve just gone through a sometimes dark and fascinating ride, probably doing air guitar solos straight through, and I don’t think anyone will fault you should you get caught.
Modern metal, the stuff you can find at the local department store and on MTV, deals mainly with pity and angst as surface tension with nothing on the inside. “Accelerated Evolution” is more than a rush, more than loud and angry and, if you’re into hard and heavy music, deserves your attention. It will be fascinating to see where Devin Townsend goes from here.
Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
Devin Townsend Band
Released: April 1, 2003
Devin Townsend Band:
Ryan van Poederooyen: